Research Park News

February 1, 2017

Grant will help advance communication skills of autistic children

Zenter_M SPEAK MODalities CEO Dr. Michael Zentner presents the award-winning SPEAKall! application. SPEAK MODalities recently received an AWS Foundation grant to support its work developing and deploying evidence-based speech and language therapy applications for individuals with severe autism or developmental disabilities. (Purdue Research Foundation photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Fort Wayne based AWS Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to SPEAK MODalities to advance a technology that has shown promise in facilitating communication and language development for children and families affected by autism spectrum disorders.

The funding will be used to focus on distribution in the Northeast Indiana region of the SPEAKall! © and SPEAKmore! © apps that have helped more than 30,000 youngsters diagnosed with minimally-verbal autism.

“We are quite thankful for this assistance from the AWS Foundation,” said SPEAK MODalities co-founder and CEO Dr. Michael Zentner, also a research scientist in Information Technology at Purdue and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Purdue Foundry. “This funding will enable us to deploy our software, tablet devices, and training services to children and clinics in northeast Indiana. We will be able to evaluate new innovative features of our current technologies that were recently funded by the National Institutes of Health for facilitating speech, language, and social development in individuals with minimally verbal communication skills.”

The AWS Foundation’s mission is to help children and adults with enduring intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities live as independently as possible, be included in the community and function at their highest potential.

“AWS Foundation is excited to partner with SPEAK MODalities,” said Patti Hays, CEO of AWS Foundation. “This grant will help provide access to this new technology for many families in northeast Indiana as well as support the research in helping advance its design.”

The SPEAKall! application has been downloaded more than 34,000 times and is used by seven leading augmentative and alternative communication centers and 16 speech and language clinics across the world. A video about the company can be downloaded here.

It is estimated that up to 66 percent of the 2 million individuals diagnosed with autism are initially nonverbal and do not develop sufficient speech and language to meet daily communication needs.

The SPEAKall! app recently won a 2016 R&D 100 Award in the software category. Additionally, SPEAK MODalities and the Purdue University Augmentative and Alternative Communication Laboratory jointly received a $152,599 SBIR Phase 1 grant in 2016 from the National Institutes of Health.

The company also received a certificate of recognition from the state of Indiana in 2016 for making a critical impact on the lives of Indiana families affected by autism. SPEAK MODalities also received the 2015 Best of Education Tech Mira Award from the Indiana TechPoint initiative and placed second in the 2015 Purdue InnovateHER competition.

SPEAK MODalities co-founder Dr. Oliver Wendt was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Research of the Year award by the Autism Society. The company won the International 2014 GAIN-TEN Business Pitch Challenge, an award for startups that have the potential to make an impact on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2013, the SPEAKall! application was recognized with the Focus Award for outstanding contribution to furthering Purdue's commitment to disability accessibility.

The SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore! technologies are patented and licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. SPEAK MODalities receives entrepreneurial assistance through the Purdue Foundry, a startup support center based in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, and Wendt has participated as a scholar in the Purdue Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy.

About SPEAK MODalities

SPEAK MODalities was formed in 2013 and obtained an exclusive license to the SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore! technologies from the Purdue Research Foundation. The first commercially supported version of SPEAKall! was released in January 2014. SPEAK MODalities has a mission to expand the reach of SPEAKall! and subsequent products that assist children with special needs to develop speech and language skills.

About Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology-transfer programs among leading research universities in the United States. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at innovation@prf.org

Purdue Research Foundation Contact: Curt Slyder, 765-588-3342, caslyder@prf.org

Sources: Oliver Wendt, 765-494-2462, olli@purdue.edu

Michael Zentner, 765-494-7705, mzentner@speakmod.com

Diana Hancock, 765-494-0840, dhancock@speakmod.com

Vicki Lee Johnson, 260-207-5728, vjohnson@awsfoundation.org


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